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Searching For Apartments In Pittsburgh (Short Guide)
Umer posted a topic in PittsburghFirst off, Congratulations for making it to CMU! This is a short guide aimed at helping you make an informed decision while hunting for apartments. This guide may not be comprehensive but should serve as a good starting point. So here it goes... The ideal apartment can vary for each individual depending on interests & priorities but for simplicity sake lets assume that distance will play an important part in your decision. So you are looking for a place to stay that is as close to the campus as possible. Why? Because you will be commuting to and from the campus every day and would want to minimize travel times as It allows you to save a lot of time and be flexible when planning class schedules. A closer place would allow you to attend day classes, go home grab a bite / relax and be back for evening classes. Plus you get to enjoy the on campus experience and get involved in activities which you might miss otherwise. Walking distance would be ideal in most cases since it prevents you from being dependent on buses which can be erratic at times. Then there are freezing winters when you don't even want to go out or wait for the bus. Snow makes it especially hard to walk on can cause delays. I would therefore suggest that always look for transportation options when looking at an apartment to avoid putting unnecessary hardship on yourself. Here is a very rough map to provide an overview of bus lines and CMU's own shuttle routes. These are not extremely detailed, hence I would advise you to search on Google maps to see which bus is serving the place you are looking to rent. CMU also provides escort service night which drops students at or very close to their homes in a 1.5 mile radius. This is done particularly for safety at night and is a good resource to use if you are working very late on campus. It is important to note that local buses stop service at 1:30AM and resume at 4:30-5:00AM. The red buildings are places available to rent as of today. You can find the website link near the end of this post. With distance covered, you might want to check out where grocery stores are and places you can go for food. Generally, I haven't found this to be a problem in Pittsburgh as each neighborhood has a good number of shops. For example there are a lot of eateries in the Oakland Area especially Craig Street and Centre Ave. Giant Eagle is accessible easily by bus, so is Target and other stores. ShadySide gives you access to Walnut Street which is again a great place to hangout, eat and have coffee. Then Murray Ave in Squirrel provides you with a ton of options and has convenient bus access. If I were to search for apartments neighborhood wise, I would go North Oakland, ShadySide and Squirrel Hill. Apart from closeness and ease of campus access, most university crowd is settled in these areas therefore there is a high probability your current friends or future friends would be around you, which is a great help at times! I have been advised and would recommend you to steer clear of South Oakland and not go above Center avenue in N. Oakland due to safety concerns. Almost all leases are available for a year therefore be sure to read the complete lease agreement terms as some apartments cannot be sub leased. This would particularly come in handy during summer months as most of you will be interning and might not be in Pittsburgh. You wouldn't want to be stuck paying rent for two places. Secondly, leases generally go up by a few dollars every year and for tenants who decide to renew their lease, the increase is lower than what a new tenant would have to pay. It is therefore beneficial to continue your lease if you have a program longer than one year. This also brings us to the question of switching apartments after one year. Technically you shouldn't have a problem moving but it can be an unnecessary pain. When you arrived in Pittsburgh you might have had 2 bags worth of stuff but after 1 year you would have to take into consideration all the furniture, clothes and other stuff that you would have gathered. If you are coming to study alone you might be contemplating living alone vs sharing accommodation i.e renting a studio, 1BR or 2BR apartment. Generally sharing a 2BR apartment would be much more cost effective than renting a studio or 1BR apartment but it has its pros and cons. This is a question that you need to ask yourself, if you would be comfortable living with someone. Depending on circumstances you might have a good friend joining the same program and such an arrangement works out or sharing in general doesn't bother you. On the other hand you get to deal with an annoying roommate or are not comfortable sharing. I can go on and on about how this might or might not be a good/bad idea but hey, my experience might not be the same as yours and everyone is different. That said, I have had friends who have lived alone in studios, and friends who have shared 1 bedroom apartments by using the living room as a bedroom and so on. While creating your list of prospective apartments always ask for the security deposit requirements. Usually companies require one months advance rent as a security which is then credited during the last month of your lease but a few companies might want two months rent or sometimes three. Some companies wouldn't let you switch people on the lease incase you are sharing and want to switch. Also always read the fine print and see what utilities are included. Usually trash pickup, snow cleaning and water is included in the rent, however facilities such as Internet, Electricity, Heating and Washing are paid and vary from apartment to apartment or company to company. Ideally you would want Heating and Electricity to be included in the rent but are not typically included. Some apartments would have gas heating, gas stoves while some would have electric heating, electric stoves and these would determine your utility usage. For my building Heat was included in the rent as the building was centrally heated but on the downside heat could not be adjusted which wasn't as bad as paying $150-$250 a month during winters on heat (electric) as my friends had to. Interesting to note therefore that utility bills vary seasonally so expect to factor those in. For my apartment we did not have air-conditioning although you can buy small air conditioners from Wal-Mart or Target, my electricity bill never topped $50 during peak months. Companies usually charge tenants for cleaning and damages once you vacate your apartment and the details on such charges will also be listed on the apartment lease. It is always good to know before hand rather than being surprised later on. Some companies would let you off if you vacuum the carpets yourself whilst others would have the apartment steam cleaned no matter how clean you leave them. I think that should be enough rambling for now. Are you ready to dig in? Here are a couple of resources to find available apartment listings: Craigslist: Pretty straight forward, setup like your average classified website offering some filters to narrow down search. Though these do not work all the time I would recommend using the filters sparingly. Remember you are looking for distance, access to campus, bus routes, frequency of buses, shops and of course rents. Hot Pads: This was one of my favorite websites as it overlays available properties on a map. This helps put into perspective location and surrounding facilities.(Also used as the base map to create the map image above). Apartments.com: Another website that creates map overlays of available properties and also lets you plan commute! Feed the website an address in the "Plan Commute" section and it should provide you travel times using various modes of transportation. The data is retrieved from WalkScore with is an authority on these matters. Rent.com Apartment Guide ForRent.com Apartment Finder You can also check out Property management company websites directly for availability. Note that these companies vary in ratings so it is always helpful to read user reviews on apartment rating websites. Ratings can be based on leasing experience, maintenance experience, friendliness and flexibility. Let me list a few companies to get you started: Amore Apartments Myer's Management Mozart Management Sterling Land Company Union Real Estate Kefalos and Associates McKinney Properties Lobos Management Out of these I have heard bad reviews about Lobos Management so you might want to be vary of them. Personally I had Amore Apartments as my management company, their prices were high and service was satisfactory, however location of their 5th Neville property was the closest. They weren't the most flexible either when it came to lease terms and have also raised their prices significantly during the past year due to intense demand. I hope this guide provided some insight and did not completely confuse you . I apologize in advance for the random thoughts. If you have any questions or want detailed help on issues that I might have overlooked just ask away. I'll keep updating this post as more questions are asked and answered. Happy Apartment Hunting!